Posted on 17th February 2023

A new research report from Bloomberg Intelligence (BI) has found office workers in London remain firmly in favour of flexible working. With 95% of respondents currently permitted to work from home in some capacity, nearly three quarters (73%) of these would leave their current job if this flexibility was taken away.

BI’s study points to the fact that unemployment in the capital is so low that, even with the threat of recession looming, the bargaining power remains with employees. Only 12% of the sample stated that they feared being laid off in the weak economy and would not change employers if asked to return to the office.

Of those who said they’d leave their jobs if their flexibility was denied, 64% said that a pay-rise of 11% or higher may make them change their minds. Salary enticement ranges differ by age and pay group, but overall an 11-15% jump was most sought after, selected by 24% of workers, matching inflation at 10.5%. Only 1% of these respondents stated that they feared either being laid off or receiving a minor pay rise if they refused to return to the office.

A previous study conducted by BI in June 2022 revealed that a significant number of office workers in London prioritised flexibility in their work patterns, with three quarters (75%) stating that they have or would change employers in the next six months in order to secure hybrid or fully remote work arrangements.“London employers have adapted to the new working trend by offering more flexibility, based on our survey,” said Sue Munden, Senior Industry Analyst for Real Estate at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Working from home is still widely spread in the capital, with 95% of respondents allowed some sort of flexibility. The norm in the capital leans towards two or three days a week of WFH for 57% of respondents, while the proportion of fully remote fell to 19% from 24% in June 2022.“We believe that flexible working will remain prevalent for the long term. Of the 500 respondents, 70% stated hybrid working is a permanent offer from their employer, surging from 46% of answers in June. While employers may be encouraging a return to the office, inflation has driven up the cost of transportation which discourages 67% of respondents to do so.”

The survey, compiled and written by Munden and associate Sirine Bouzid, suggests that Londoners’ willingness to return to the office is driven by factors their employers cannot control, namely their commute and transportation costs. Within the sample, two thirds (67%) stated that high transportation costs discourage them to go to the office. The average daily cost of public transport in London is set to increase by 5.9% in March, following a 3.8% rise a year ago, putting further strain on personal finances.

More than half (56%) said that commute length, delays and strikes were a contributing factor to their unwillingness to return to the office. Things that would tempt the workforce to return to the office are higher salaries, according to 60% of respondents, or better amenities, selected by 37%. Other office benefits remain important for employees, with 37% respondents stating networking boosted their incentive to go, followed by higher productivity (28%) and collaboration (19%). Sue Munden, Senior Industry Analyst for Real Estate at Bloomberg Intelligence, added: “London employers may need to keep flexible work arrangements permanently in order to retain talent. Employees are looking for flexibility, with three quarters of respondents either having changed employers or would do so in the next six months to secure hybrid or fully remote work arrangements. The more experienced – those aged 55-65 – have adapted to this new working style the best, with 77% of respondents changing employers – up from 44% in June.“Millennials and Gen Z (those under 41 years old) remain hard to retain with 75% willing to change employers, down from 82% in June. This could be explained by the ‘fear of layoff in the weak economic environment’ that accounted for 11.5% of answers.”

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